Larry Graham: Hot fun in the summertime

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 17, 2010 - 2:49 PM

Hall of Fame bass giant will headline his first Twin Cities gig since moving here.

Larry Graham

Finally. After living in the Twin Cities for 12 years, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Larry Graham will headline his first show here. Best-known as the funk-pioneering bassist in Sly & the Family Stone and later as leader of Graham Central Station, he will perform Friday at the Minnesota Zoo with five musicians, all of whom live within 5 miles of one another in Oakland, Calif. Calling from New York where he appeared on the David Letterman show, Graham, 64, explained his relationship with Prince, Sly and the bass guitar.

WHY HE MOVED FROM JAMAICA TO MINNESOTA

"We were getting ready to move back to California. I was on tour with Sinbad and Earth Wind & Fire. We played Nashville and Prince was playing at [another] venue in town and he invited me to come to the after-show and jam. And I did, which would be the first time I actually played with him. We instantly clicked. What I didn't know was my music with Sly & the Family Stone and even more so with Graham Central Station was some of the music that influenced him growing up.

"He invited me to join his tour after the Sinbad tour. He knew that I was really into the Bible and he would ask me questions all the time, before or after the gig, and we'd spend hours and hours talking about the Bible. So he asked me to move to Minneapolis to teach him the Bible."

ON HIS FAVORITE SUMMER SONGS TO PERFORM

"'Hot Fun in the Summertime' [by Sly Stone] is one, of course. An outdoor fun song that people like is 'The Jam,' and 'One in a Million You' on the slow side" [both by Graham Central Station].

ON THE LAST TIME HE TALKED TO SLY STONE

"It's been a long-ong-ong-ong time. Decades. It was in Los Angeles in a restaurant, 20-some years ago."

ON WHETHER HE'LL PLAY WITH SLY AGAIN

"There's always been people trying to hook us back up. Some legit, some not. You never know. Everything that has happened to me has happened when I didn't plan it."

ON HIS THUMPING, PLUCKING BASS STYLE

"My mother is a pianist and vocalist. When I was 15, I was playing guitar in her Dell Graham Trio. This club we were playing had an organ with bass pedals. So I learned how to play the bass pedals at the same time as playing guitar and singing. But the organ broke down. We got used to having bottom [sound] and now it sounded empty. So I rented a bass. As it turned out, the organ couldn't be repaired and I got stuck on the bass. And my mom decides she wants to go duo -- just bass and piano.

"Now I didn't have a drummer, so that's when I started to thump the strings to make up for not having that bass drum sound, and pluck the strings to make up for not having that backbeat. It was kind of like playing the drums on the bass -- the drummer mentality."

ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH PRINCE

"Musically, there's a natural connection. Spiritually, we have a very, very close relationship. We're like spiritual brothers. He's close with all of my family. My grandkids call him Uncle Prince."

ON WHETHER PRINCE WILL SIT IN AT THE ZOO

"I really don't know. This is the truth. Usually I don't know -- even if I go to one of his shows. Ninety percent of the time it's spontaneous. I never ask. I never know."

Jon Bream • 612-673-1719

  • LARRY GRAHAM

    Opening: Mint Condition.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Fri.

    Where: Weesner Family Amphitheater, Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley.

    Tickets: $42. Ticketmaster.com;

    1-800-745-3000, or at the Electric

    Fetus, 2000 4th Av. S., Mpls.

    Web: larrygraham.com.

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